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Danny in Senior High School (Grades 10-12): 1964-1966

These important events take place during the senior high school years:

  1. Danny is placed in a role of responsibility as editor of the school newspaper.
  2. Danny begins to explore “real life” communication of information through radio broadcasting.
  3. Academic status for Danny is enhanced by the opportunity to apply information decision-making skills and communication skills through speech, drama and debate.
  4. Instructional media specialists emerge from real world work.

Questioning and Exploration

typingDanny moves through several roles in his school. He is now editor for the local school newspaper. Through that position he contributes an editorial each issue. Much of his writing has been too typical and predictable on “school spirit” and “teens should get involved in community action.” He has found, however, that gathering student opinion through surveys and interviews opens a new way to broaden the perspectives he can report and comment on in his regular column. Most student opinion supports the “status quo”, but a few are beginning to speak out on the war in Vietnam, civil rights for Negroes, and something about equal opportunity for women. More and more students have also described drugs as being more than beer and cigarettes.

Organization of student opinion opens new formats for writing. Instead of essay, Danny can plot student responses by showing a range of opinions and the proportion of the student population various opinions seem to represent. Thus in a chart, the 60% who supported the current military action in Vietnam would get that much space, with 30% of the space given to comments that were indifferent, and only 10% to those who opposed or questioned President Johnson’s actions. Very unique, insightful or irreverent quotations receive bold type or run in their own box. Students who seem to hold an especially strong opinion are approached to elaborate on their views in an editorial.

Cartoons also become a format for illustrating differing view-points. This way a visual point – counterpoint can be shown. Combined with the surveys and editorials, a wide spectrum of opinions can be represented across several pages. A few displays, especially illustrating equal rights for Black students, lead to tense discussions with the school principal. Integrated dances and dating are not yet tolerated.

Following style convention taught in English classes, facts would carry the proper citation to the original source. As a student “information scientist”, Danny also employs the process of identifying the sources that are accepted as most authoritative based on frequent use, credentials of the author or agency, and evidence of a history of providing acceptable data. These decisions are guided by the journalism teacher, Mr. Lawrence, an instructional media specialist in his own right.

In addition to writing for the school newspaper, Danny continued his work in the school print shop. Here he learns from Mr. Garrets the basic techniques in managing movable type and off-set printing. Danny and all others at the time could not image the meaning of “movable type” in the use of personal computers forty years later.

Danny also invested time in debate and other forensic activities such as spontaneous speeches and group discussions. Effective note-gathering skills were necessary to be successful in debate. Predefined resolutions give focus, but there is a constant need to locate convincing evidence and counter evidence. Cases and plans in support of or rejection of the resolution are developed on evidence that has to be understandable as well as convincing. Statistics, charts, summaries of authoritative opinions have to be concise, meaningful, clearly to the point and understood by judges who may have not heard of the issues in any manner prior to the actual debate.

While debate allowed for some advanced planning and time to select the best evidence, extemporaneous speeches forced skimming and selection of information quickly. Facts had to be gleaned and organized from limited sources in order to speak on a topic drawn blindly just twenty minutes earlier.

The group discussion format calls for a demonstration of understanding comments contributed by all group members and finding from that a path that is most likely to address the needs and desires of most of those involved. Success in both environments demonstrate the student’s abilities to deal with information processing on short notice as well as the ability to listen for reason, build consensus and even summarize a plan for action.

The best facility for practice of the full array of forensic activities was the school library media center. Information resources, conference rooms were all available to support practice and feedback. Two decades later, affordable and portable video tape units would make it possible for any school media center to provide an added degree of enhancement for students to review their performance in argumentation and presentation.

New questions that confront Danny at this time in his information literacy and inquiry development are:

Senior Projects became an exit experience for all students regardless of their intention to attend college, enter the service, go into the business, or enter the vocational job market following graduation. Miss Viets, the school librarian, thinking and working on the higher levels as instructional media specialist, coordinates the preparation and presentation of the projects for nearly 100 seniors each year.

The purpose was to allow each senior time and space to present what they believed to be representation of their finest achievement in their secondary school career. Participation in athletics and other activities, awards and various products completed could be offered. Essays, speeches, dramatic readings, portions of plays, art work, even furniture completed in wood working shop could be displayed in a grand celebration representing student accomplishments. Some students also presented items representing community service, their first job, a hobby, church work and other forms of constructive activity outside of school.

A group of teachers provided feedback on their impressions of each display and give such personally to each student. There were no grades, ribbons or other awards presented. Displays were titled so that the student would add that descriptor by his or her name in the graduation program. Danny’s was “Communication to Resolve Conflicts,” and it included essays, editorials and speeches dealing with the use of group discussion to address differences found in several school issues.

Danny was also able to display, as did most other students, examples of projects from his vocational training classes in printing. His experiences in debate, journalism, printing press operation and local radio broadcasting all allowed him a rich understanding of mass communication from many different aspects.

Danny’s questioning has become more precise and probing. In order to address issues directly, questions must result in defining terms in a common understanding. Debate and discussion fail unless the participants have agreement on what everyone means by the key terms used. Plans that might address problems or change the current situation must be questioned for true need, reasonable resource cost, and likely advantages compared to the status quo.

Assimilation & Inference

Based on his experiences in journalism, forensics, and interest in athletics, Danny gains the opportunity to write and broadcast news and sports for a local radio station. Information management skills apply in a variety of areas on the job. Concise and factual delivery is essential for news summaries. Reading skills improve with the pressure to deliver clearly and with authority. Interview methods were useful for gaining information from community leaders as well as coaches. The best human information sources are identified by their relevance to issues or events and their abilities to voice information succinctly.

Elaboration skills from debate and group discussions help to build the ability to extend commentary in sportscasts and full game play-by-play. Professional announcers, and the radio station owner Mr. Courtney, serve to mentor Danny and help him refine these skills. These mentors are different instructional media specialists. They had a specific product to communicate and to be information literate in the broadcast business meant that Danny had to grasp the means to persuade and sell when necessary.


Danny has found he is more likely to grow in successful application of information inquiry skills when he is placed in authentic learning situations, especially “on the job.” He remains very amateur in many aspects of information selection, focus and delivery. He is not of an age that he can move easily into situations where more adult announcers can go for community interviews. However, he has learned the basics of communication in a variety of formats, print and electronic, for his day.

Danny receives guidance from many different role models including siblings, teachers and now those who supervise him on the job. Each is an instructional media specialist in that they guide him to information, help him find value in the information, and give him feedback on his performance in use of the information.

Skills. Danny can identify issues quickly and determine a path to acquire evidence through reviewing documents, conducting interviews, and considering logical arguments. He can summarize evidence in the form of notes, charts, tables and other means to convey data in an understandable manner.

Strategies. Danny has applied many strategies for information inquiry as offered by his teachers and now with professionals in broadcasting. He finds that he is developing his own style and concentrates most on the interview techniques that give his reporting unique perspectives for both news and sports.

Realizations. Danny is learning that there are a few coaches and players who will give the most concise statements that also have relevance and in some cases “color.” A combination of authoritativeness and humor seem to play the best to his audiences.


Information Literacy Standards (Selected from Information Power, AASL, 1998)

Content Standards

Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning – Content Knowledge

Developing Education Standards

Times Have Changed

Ten years after Danny graduated, the Senior Projects centered on the 1976 USA Bicentennial. A new school library media specialist, Mr. Printz and a new art teacher, Ms. Miller, coordinated many special projects based on oral histories. A select group of seniors worked in teams to gather recorded interviews of community leaders and other local personalities. Slides were taken of those interviewed and slides were copied from photo albums and other documents. The visuals were synchronized with toned tape recordings edited by the students into ten minute programs. Students in art classes provided additional graphics and illustrations as needed.

Mr. Printz based his oral history projects on the ideas of Elliot Wigginton and the Foxfire projects in the Southern Appalachians. High school students had gained national fame because of their documentation of local culture and heritage. The ideas from Sometimes a Shining Moment, an award-winning book by Wigginton, inspired many teachers across the nation.

In addition, art students developed special exhibits based on the literature they had read their junior and senior years. “If a picture can be worth a thousand words,” according to Ms. Miller, “then a thousand words can generate a new visual idea.” Eventually Ms. Miller used her instructional media specialist skills as an art teacher to expand student multimedia projects into annual cultural fairs.

Twenty years after Danny graduated, another instructional media specialist, Mr. Dean the chair of the English department, coordinated the Senior Projects as Career Planning Portfolios. He also added a select group of community members and members of the previous graduating class to the groups providing feedback and reflection on the student projects. New areas for demonstrating skills included mock job interviewing.

Forty years after Danny graduated, individual electronic portfolios based on multimedia collections are today expected for each senior. An important aspect that can be captured through the multimedia format for the portfolio is that students can display in more detail the processes involved in completion of a project, rather than just the end product itself. Resources used to support the content of an essay, acquire ideas for design and construction of a piece of furniture, or charting the advantages and disadvantages of various colleges could be described.

The steps involved in planning and producing an interview, a play, or implementing community service could be illustrated for quick access and easy storage. The student’s analysis abilities are clear from the explanations of processes. Synthesis skills are clearly evident based on the decisions of what to include in the final product.

Video screens and computer monitors have become common for the senior displays. And the celebration continues after graduation as the electronic portfolios remain available online.

Extending across six decades, the Senior Project experiences have served to validate student accomplishments. The projects allow for display of various talents and what some suggest represent different aspects of intelligence. SAT exams are not ignored because of this emphasis on multiple learning styles. But standardized exams are viewed as only one of many measures of student achievement. Thus, no senior is left behind.

Relevant Resources

Gardner, Howard. (1983) Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. Basicbooks.

McKenzie, Jamie. (2005) Learning to Question, to Wonder, to Learn. FNO Press.

Miller, Lynda, Theresa Hammett Steinlage, and Mike Printz. (1993). Cultural Cobblestones: Teaching Cultural Diversity. Libraries Unlimited.

Wigginton, Elliot. (1972) The Foxfire Book: Hog Dressing, Log Cabin Building, Mountain Crafts and Foods, Planting by the Signs, Snake Lore, Hunting Tales, Faith Healing, Moonshining. Anchor.

Wigginton, Elliot. (1986) Sometimes a Shining Moment. Anchor.

Relevant Websites

Choices Program (http://www.choices.edu)
CHOICES engages secondary level students in international issues and contributes to a renewal of civic engagement among young people in the United States.

Problem-Based Social Science (http://www.bie.org/)
Problem Based Economics and Problem Based Government are student-relevant, highly participatory ways to teach social studies content and concepts.

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